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Tulane Law student wins prestigious Burton Award in writing

May 04, 2023 1:15 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu



A third-year Tulane Law student has been awarded the prestigious Burton Award, the sixth time in the past decade.

Kellie Constantine  (L’23) wrote her note for the Tulane Law Review, where she is Notes and Comments Editor, titled, “United States v. Flowers: The Implication of High Crime Areas and the Experienced Police Officer on the Reasonable Suspicion Standard of Terry Stops” – a case involving the constitutionality of law enforcement’s use of Terry stops, or “stop and frisk.”

The Burton Award is one of the most prestigious awards for writing that law students can receive, and is highly competitive, drawing hundreds of submissions each year.

“I am humbled and grateful to receive such an honor,” said Constantine, who has been on the Civil Law track at Tulane. “I have been passionate about writing for as long as I can remember, so I made it a top priority to join a journal in law school to write on compelling issues in the law. This truly feels like a full circle moment!”

Constantine’s article focused on the Flowers case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which involved two individuals parked in the parking lot of an open convenience store in a high-crime area. Although the individuals were only in the car for seconds and did not make suspicious movements, officers stopped and frisked them. They believed the individuals were planning to rob the store, and a Terry stop only requires reasonable suspicion—a much less stringent standard than probable cause.

Constantine’s note argued the court relied too heavily on the fact that the incident took place in a high-crime area and on police experience assessing these situations. 

The Court’s majority deemed the Terry stop constitutional, relying on dissimilar cases, Constantine wrote. Her note provided insight into the court’s use of distinguishable precedent to ultimately determine that innocent behavior was sufficiently suspicious to warrant the Terry stop, and the ultimate impact of that decision on the reasonable suspicion standard and on those living in high-crime areas.

Constantine, who graduates this month with her JD and a Civil Law Certificate -- joins numerous Tulane Law winners-past of the Burton Award. The Awards, co-sponsored by the American Bar Association and Law360, are presented annually at a gala event at the Library of Congress.  This year the awards gala will be held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

While in law school, Constantine not only worked on the Law Review, but also was a Legal Research & Writing Senior Fellow, and the Secretary of SBA for her class in her 2L and 3L year, and Vice President of the Civil Law Society. She will be clerking for Judge Elizabeth Erny Foote in the Western District of Louisiana and after that, will join McGuireWoods in Houston.